Raïs Neza Boneza is a Congolese poet and author. His works include Nomad, a Refugee Poet; Black Emerald; Peace by African’s Peaceful Means and a recent novel, White Eldorado, Black Fever. He is based in Trondheim, Norway. He spoke to Beatrice Lamwaka about the influence of books on his life.
Why do you read fiction?
I do read fiction but I am quite selective on what kind of fiction I read. I mostly read fact-based fiction, “fac-tion” if we can call it so.
Which books have made a difference in your life?
Osiris Rising and The Healers by Ayi Kwei Armah because 60 years after independence, the “Africas” are still longing for peace, serenity, freedom etc even though there are some palpable changes. I believe in the idea to recapture the spirit that led to the independences in the 1960’s. We need the same spirit that led to the collapse of apartheid in South Africa; the spirit, which led to the liberation of Haiti under Toussaint Louverture and brought the first black independent state in the world in 1791 while humiliating the then super-power, France under Napoleon Bonaparte. We need real economic growth created by us and in our images, through emancipatory democracy and adapted by us. Yes, these two books, and particularly the author, have touched me deeply.
What are your top five Ugandan novels?
Cassandra by Violet Barungi is very inspiring. Then you have Oculi Okelo for his very authentic usage of language. Julius Ocwinyo’s Fate of the Banished challenges the African society where the “sacred” cannot be questioned. I love Malita and other Stories by Catherine Samali Kavuma. Glaydah Namukasa’s Voice of a Dream, of course. The list is long; there are many other great writers and poets in Uganda such as Monica Arac de Nyeko, Doreen Baingana, Moses Isegawa, Beverley Nambozo, among others.
Which are some of the books you wish you had written?
There are books I love but none I wish I wrote. They motivate and inspire me to produce something equally great and maybe even better. But I prefer to write just like me and I do not envy other writers because I will never write like them.
What is on your 2013 reading list? Why these books?
The list is not yet exhaustive; I have already got a shelf of books. I have not yet decided, which one I will be reading first. Probably, I will start with a non-fiction book titled Silences in African History: Between the Syndromes of Discovery and Abolition by Jacques Depelchin because I always I try to climb on the emancipatory spirit.
Are you reading anything interesting at the moment?
Adventures of Api by Ohaegbulem from Nigeria. It is the story of Api, a young boy living in Nigeria during colonial time. Api and other black boys fight the servants who are trying to guard the fruits in the compounds at the European quarters; a very interesting story.